SATTAHIP, Kingdom of Thailand -- The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived in the Kingdom of Thailand to participate in the 32nd iteration of the multinational training exercise Cobra Gold, Feb. 12.
Exercise Cobra Gold is an annual event that includes numerous multilateral exercises ranging from amphibious assaults to non-combatant evacuation operations. The training aims to improve interoperability between the United States, the Kingdom of Thailand, and many other participating countries.
Approximately 1,000 Marines and Sailors with the 31st MEU are slated to participate in the exercise alongside Thai service members. Most of the MEU personnel, along with thousands of tons of gear and equipment, were offloaded through a coordinated effort with the Navy's Amphibious Squadron 11. Landing craft utilities and landing craft air cushions spent two days accomplishing the complete offload. Having a strong “blue-green” relationship is vital to getting the MEU ashore.
“As great as the Marine embarkation team is, there is no way to get the 31st MEU ashore without the help of our Navy brothers and sisters,” said 1st Lt. Elizabeth A. Harrington, the landing support platoon commander for Combat Logistics Battalion-31, 31st MEU, and native of Quantico, Va. “Our integration into the blue-green team requires a lot of coordination to get all the Marines and Sailors on deck.”
The USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), USS Tortuga (LSD-46) and the USS Germantown (LSD-42) embarked every element of the 31st MEU's Marine Air Ground Task Force during their regularly scheduled deployment. The three ships housed the command element; ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment; the logistics combat element, CLB-31; and the aviation combat element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced).
For more than three decades, the United States has co-hosted the multinational exercise Cobra Gold. The 31st MEU has taken part in most of those years, each one providing valuable experience.
“Thailand provides us with a unique training environment that helps us hone our jungle warfare skills,” said Capt. Max D. Frank, commanding officer of Weapons Co., Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 31st MEU, and a native of San Diego, Calif. “It makes sure we are ready to participate in any contingency operations we may be a part of, as a part of the 31st MEU.”
As the 31st MEU begins the training evolutions of CG13, the purpose of the exercise is not lost in the excitement of visiting an exotic country. While this exercise advances interoperability among participating nations, Marines also improve upon their individual skills in the diverse environment.
“Out of all the exercises I have been privileged to participate in with the 31st MEU, Cobra Gold is my favorite,” said Cpl. Nicholas J. Cordero, a data systems technician with the command element, 31st MEU, and a native of Santa Clarita, Calif. “Here, I am tasked with huge responsibilities that, as a 21-year-old man, I thought I would never have.”
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness for the Asia-Pacific region.